Friday, June 10, 2011

Is "I Only Have Eyes for You" (the Flamingos version) the best song ever?

While at a cafe in the West Village the other day, I posted this status to Facebook:

John Althouse Cohen is at 'sNice, where they're playing pop songs from the '50s and '60s. Runaround Sue, You Can't Hurry Love, I Only Have Eyes for You, Signed Sealed Delivered, etc. Such overwhelmingly great music. Why can't they make top 40 songs like this anymore?
When I got home, I looked up one of the songs on YouTube:

I almost regret finding this, since I've been watching it compulsively over and over. It might not be the best song ever, but it's at least in the running.


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I've never liked that song. It's drippy. The best pop song from that era is “Good Lovin” by the Rascals. Others: “Tracks of My Tears,” “Ooh Baby Baby,” “You Really Got a Hold On Me,” “Rainy Night in Georgia,” “People Get Ready,” “Dancing in the Street,” “Baby I Need Your Loving.” But the real best songs of all time were written in the 20s-40s. “Summertime,” “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” “These Foolish Things,” “As Time Goes By,” “Bewitched,” “Mood Indigo,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” etc etc. But the real best songs of all time are “Shenandoah” and “The Water Is Wide.”

Bob Ellison said...

Yes, that's an excellent recording. I'm not that fond of the song (composition) itself, but this rendition is outstanding.

We have to distinguish here between "best recordings" and "best compositions". As for the latter, I agree with Richard on "Shenandoah": one of the top five songs ever. "Amazing Grace" is at the top of my list.

"Best recordings" is much more difficult and wide-ranging, but I reflexively have Joni Mitchell's studio version of "Woodstock" at the top.

John Althouse Cohen said...

We have to distinguish here between "best recordings" and "best compositions".

I don't think the distinction is as clear as people often assume. I deliberately referred in the heading to the Flamingos' specific version as a contender for best song ever. Different recordings are going to have different melodies, harmonies, and rhythms, and those, to me, are part of the song.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I also want to mention "Be My Baby," "The Wanderer," "Come See about Me," and -- a surprise -- "I Got You Babe." And in the earlier groups, "I Loves You Porgy,""Mary Don't You Weep" and "Samson and Delilah." And "Amazing Grace," as Bob points out. For the pre-1960s songs, there are so many wonderful renditions it would be hard to pick; but Andrea Marcovicci's "These Foolish Things," which has all the verses, is something I still can't hear without crying.

Indigo Red said...

"Why can't they make top 40 songs like this anymore?"

One reason, and certainly not definitive, may be that the song writers of the 1930s are now dead, along with them the social and cultural milieu that created the sound in the first place.

As a child of the '60s and a big fan of '30s and '40s, I get a kick out of pointing out to my far younger family members that the great new song just released by their favorite artist is 70 years old or more. It gets their interest in more truly great songs like "I Only Have Eyes for You" and the others listed in comments above.

Personally, I think the greatest song ever is "Girl From Ipanema" with Astrud Gilberto & Stan Getz.

Anonymous said...

This really is a great song.

You are here
So am I
Maybe millions of people pass by
But they all disappear from view
I only have eyes for you

I've always loved that part. Maybe because I grew up in NYC where there are literally millions of people

But I think there are good songs still being written. I really liked the Sixpence none the richer song "kiss me", that was so sweet and romantic.

As for old goopy songs my ultimate fave has to be "this magic moment". Gosh I love that song!

Jason (the commenter) said...

Why can't they make top 40 songs like this anymore?

We do have artists like Aloe Blacc and Adele mining the past. Also, if you listen to hip-hop you hear sampling from this type of music occasionally.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Same thing happened to me. Been trying to track this down for the last 6 months. I could remember the doo wop vox stabs and the tune but no idea about the rest of it. Finally found it on two days ago and have caned it all weekend!! Not mad on the chorus but the verses are gold. A great great record.